2007 Ride Reports

Big Basin 200k
June 30, 2007

They say history repeats itself, and for the 2007 SCR Big Basin 200k brevet, that was largely true. Besides the much larger entry field compared to 2004, what was written for the inaugural event seemed to hold true this year. So we've adapted much of that ride report for the latest edition:

The regulations of the Audax Club Parisien state that the time limit for a 200-kilometer brevet is 13.5 hours. Period. Most randonneuring events are judged against the Paris-Brest-Paris standard of approximately 5,000 feet of gain per 200 kilometers of distance. That makes for a tough but fair day in the saddle. Still, the 13.5-hour time limit applies for any 200k route configuration around the globe, whether it is totally flat or completely hilly.

The Big Basin 200k fell into this latter category--by a ridiculously wide margin. As stated in the pre-ride info, there was not a single section of flat riding anywhere on the out-and-back route, and some of the climbs were exceptionally steep and/or long. The total vertical gain is around 13,000 feet--double or triple the climbing found at most other American 200k brevets. Like climbing Mount Everest one must ask, why?

Well, as the old saying goes, "because it is there." In this case, "it" is the fine, if challenging riding found in the rugged Santa Cruz Mountains. Everyone commented on the lovely route. Scenic the entire way, the brevet traversed the majestic redwood forests that separate Silicon Valley from the Pacific coastline. Some out-of-area entrants were surprised by so many quiet roads so near the bustling Bay Area. It was a beautiful day of riding under clear skies and in nice temperatures--though it might not be accurate to use the word "beautiful" to describe giving 100% effort to painfully grind up the cruel slopes of Jamison Creek Road at three miles per hour for an hour!

Better than the route were the riders. Resolute, upbeat and supportive throughout, 30 randonneurs and 6 randonneuses showed up to test their mettle on what has to be one of the hardest 200k events on the US randonneuring calendar. Incredibly, 35 of them finished this arduous test. (The pre-ride info probably scared off anyone doubtful about their fitness.) Our prediction of adding about 2-3 hours to one's usual time for a regular 200k seemed accurate; most everyone finished other California 200k events about that much quicker this season. As it turned out, many entrants were not too far apart in ability and they saw a good bit of each other at various times during the day on the out-and-back route. It was a great group; words, waves and cheers of encouragement were frequently exchanged when they saw each other. Most found another rider or a small group of the same speed to ride with; only a few riders finished alone. There was also a nice mix of new and veteran riders and everyone got on well together. The lunch stop in Davenport was a lively scene no matter what group stopped there to eat.

From our perspective the ride was a big success. Only one rider bailed out and there weren't any crashes on the dangerous descents. Best of all, everyone finished before the event clock wound down; it would have been a real shame for someone to ride so hard for so long and miss the cut-off. All in all, it was an epic ride--hearty congratulations to these 35 amazing athletes! It is an indication of their character and sense of adventure that nearly all of them finished with a smile on their face, even the ones who were desperately tired.

As it turns out, the Santa Cruz Randonneurs Big Basin 200k was the final event on the busy 2007 Northern California brevet calendar. Many of the riders are headed Paris in August and passing this tough test after the qualifiers certainly gave them additional confidence. And besides the folks aspiring to ride PBP, we had quite a few entrants for whom this ride was their first-ever randonneuring brevet! After the ride we took pains to reassure them that most other 200k events are much easier and hoped they'll return to do some more events with us next year. All in all, it was a memorable day of randonneuring.

Surf City 600k
June 2, 2007

The 2007 SCR 600k followed the pattern of our previous events this spring, and that is a good thing. Even though the distance was demanding, the riders arrived at the start line prepared physically and mentally. They had respect for the daunting distance and rode intelligently. In the end, almost all of them were successful and earned their medals.

At the lighthouse on Saturday morning, we had 36 entrants, but with 8 DNS, 28 riders began the ride. Happily, the weather was typical for the time of year; warm but not hot afternoon temperatures, followed by a cool but not cold night. Then repeat on Sunday. Yes, during a 600k brevet one must look at the forecast for the entire weekend, not just the first day.

The riders made good time covering the first 200 kilometers to the southern end of the route at San Ardo. The SAG driver had little to do and reported an uneventful shift. Alas, one of our brevet series regulars called home for a ride after only a hundred miles covered. Jim Langley of Santa Cruz was forced to DNF at King City when his back went on strike and refused to work anymore. After successfully completing the SCR 200k, 300k, and 400k brevets, and hoping to ride his first PBP in August, this was a bitter blow and everyone was sorry for Jim's bad luck.

In San Ardo the riders wisely bunched up into cooperative groups to battle the Salinas Zephyr, and they did right well. No one set any speed records for the second 200 kilometers back to Santa Cruz, but (almost) everyone got through a long night on the road in good fashion. Most veterans of the SCR 400k in May thought the winds were a little better this time around. This was probably true; the SAG drivers' cars remained empty of passengers all night and reported that everyone looked good as they rode northward together in several packs. After reaching the Monterey Bay at Marina, the winds were light enough that some of the larger groups split up as riders made their way to Santa Cruz.

At SCR HQ, and 400 kilometers done, all the riders but one signed in between 3:30 and 8:15 AM. Most of them took a short sleep break in nearby motels afterward, or a few others rested in lodgings a few miles before reaching the checkpoint. No one rode straight through the entire event, a smart tactic given the lack of services until 9 AM on the northern route section. The control was a busy place for several hours, with riders changing clothes, fueling up after a long night ride, and chatting about their adventures. Others sat pensively, reflecting upon what still lay in store. Still, everyone got moving by 8:30 AM and set off to do the final third of the event. In mid-morning, Eva Chrysanthe arrived at the 400k checkpoint out of time and stopped, and a little while later Brooks Allen of San Francisco returned to Santa Cruz prematurely. With a sore and swollen knee continuing onward would not be smart and he wisely retired. Like Jim Langley, Brooks was not happy about quitting after having done the previous three SCR brevets successfully. Hopefully we'll see them back in 2011.

For everyone else, Sunday meant a lot more cycling, and it wasn't easy. Along with coastal headwinds getting to Moss Beach and numerous short climbs the whole time, they also had to ascend the mean slopes of Haskins Hill, along with the four summits along Stage Road. After Moss Beach, the riders made the turn south and enjoyed the last 55 miles back to Santa Cruz without headwinds, but that didn't make the hills any easier. As experienced randonneurs know, by the end of a 600k even little bumps in the road will feel like a real hill. But they all did it and in the end, 25 determined randonneurs and randonneuses successfully completed the brevet in good fashion. Their elapsed time ranged from 34h45m to 38h35m and the finishers all had a euphoric sense of accomplishment while signing in for the final time. Hats off to them! Everyone should be proud. For some, this was their very first 600k, while for others, it was one of many. And for the ones aspiring to ride PBP in August, they can go to Paris confident in their abilities after completing such a demanding test.

The Santa Cruz Randonneurs were very pleased to help the new riders successfully "graduate" in the class of 2007, but it was equally heartening to see "old" (in experience, not age) comrades like Kim Freitas, Wayne Woodside, and Ken Knutson rack up yet another 600k. Perhaps sweetest of all was seeing local rider Glenn Armstrong earn his very first Super Randonneur medal at the tender age of 67. Along with his buddies Jon Zbasnik and Tim Houck, the "Three Musketeers" rode the entire event having fun and helping each other through the rough times. Special mention also goes out to Mike Bloomfield of San Francisco, Rob Heather of Sunnyvale, and Jonas Jackel of Berkeley. These three men did all four of the SCR brevets that made up our 2007 Super Randonneur series. Congrats, gents!

And, a HUGE thank-you goes out to our SCR Volunteers who made it all happen during the 600k: Charlie Jonas ably handled the Pinnacles Store control despite a few unforeseen challenges, while Richard McCaw, Veronica Tunucci, Jonathan Berk, and Joe Gross went beyond the call of duty to help their fellow randonneurs by driving long hours of SAG patrol alone. Happily, no one needed to "get into the lifeboat" during the brevet, but virtually every rider said it was a comfort to know someone was looking after them throughout the weekend, especially during the night. When you see these five fine people at the local brevets, or at PBP, please be sure to give them a special salute for their unselfish efforts.

San Ardo 400k
May 12, 2007

The San Ardo 400k took place on May 12. Entries numbered close to 40 in this PBP year, but some of them had recently completed various other brevets in the busy northern California randonneuring scene, including the Davis 600k the week before. On the day of the ride we had 21 starters. After a 7:30 AM start, the randonneurs made their way south from Santa Cruz through the Pajaro Valley to Hollister, then past the Pinnacles on lonely Highway 25. The scenery was sublime, the roads tranquil, and the temperatures were only moderately warm. After a stop at the Pinnacles campground store to refuel, afternoon breezes kicked up and pushed everyone south to King City, then another 20 miles to San Ardo, whereupon they made "the turn" at half-distance. From here the riders made sure to band into cooperative groups as they rode northward into a strong Salinas Valley Zephyr for hours on end. The winds dropped around 10 PM, but the nighttime temps dropped into the 40s and warm clothes were required since the wind chill made things feel even colder. But the riders came prepared and most everyone survived the challenge. As is normal for the vast Salinas Valley, the farm roads were deserted after dark and the riders had a similar nocturnal riding experience as they will find in France in August; no motorized hooligans bothered them and the randonneurs could stay focused on their cycling. They kept to their pacelines and worked together all night long until reaching Santa Cruz. The first riders completed the ride around 2:30 AM, with several other groups arriving at intervals behind them until 7:15 AM. Roving sag drivers Roger Erikson, Mark Behning, and Joe Gross made sure no one was left behind and their efforts were most appreciated, as were those of control workers Tim Houck, Tim Jensen, Scott Brittle, and Lois Springsteen. Eighteen randonneurs finished the circuit successfully in the 27-hour time limit. Considering the distance they covered, and the challenges they encountered, it was most impressive. Clearly, they are all made of the Right Stuff.

Pinnacles 300k
April 7, 2007

Saturday, April 7th saw the fourth running of the Santa Cruz Randonneurs Pinnacles 300k brevet. It was a good ride overall, with few problems or incidents to report. Most of the starters finished successfully and the sweep driver had little to do.

We had a total of 40 entrants. As always, riders of all abilities entered the brevet and their elapsed times ranged from 11h30m to 18h23m. With a 7:30 AM start, most of the riders arrived at the finish between 9 PM and midnight. There were 2 DNS, along with 2 riders who did the worker's pre-ride the weekend before. Of the 36 starters on Saturday there were eventually 5 DNF; 3 from injury or medical problems (bum knee, bad back, and a migraine), and there were also 2 riders who ran out of time before reaching the Green Valley control late Saturday evening. Special thanks go out to Peter Brunn and Wayne Stidolph for volunteering to help us organize the ride.

The out and back route was moderately hilly with about 7,900 feet of vertical gain for the entire event. Some sections of climbing were still tough, especially the stretches of 10-12% of Carr Road near Aromas. The weather for the brevet was generally fair, and riders had a good ride southward to the turnaround at the Pinnacles National Monument. Many of them commented on the fine scenery and abundant wildlife in one of California's last unspoiled regions. After that, however, a strong north wind rose in the afternoon and made the return trip to Santa Cruz a tough ride. Many experienced riders banded together and formed ad-hoc teams, others battled the wind alone. The wind slackened after sundown and the night riding was more tranquil. There was some moonlight that might have helped riders spot the potholes on the rough roads of Santa Cruz County, but heavily overcast skies near the Monterey Bay coast made it a dark ride to the finish. Nonetheless, most riders came equipped with sufficient lights, strong determination, and a good attitude; a lot of smiles were seen at the finish after a tough day in the saddle. In the end 31 randonneurs and randonneuses earned their brevet (along with the 2 pre-riders). For the aspiring PBP entrants with a 200k and 300k under their belt, they are now 1/3 of the way through the qualifying process.

Moss Beach 200k
March 17, 2007

The 2007 Santa Cruz Randonneurs season got underway with the Moss Beach 200k brevet. There were 53 entrants, three DNS, and only two DNF, so 48 riders earned their brevet. There was a nice mix of veteran and rookie randonneurs and everyone got on well together. Probably the one disappointment was the weather. California's central coast region had been experiencing lovely warm weather and light winds in the preceding days and this was forecast to continue through the weekend. Mother Nature, however, had other ideas and the day began unexpectedly with heavy overcast and drizzle. The gray skies and cool temps continued all day and most riders only saw the sun in the final hours of the ride.

No one had to worry about overheating during the ride-- and this was doubtlessly appreciated as the route took in the tough southern side of Haskins Hill before reaching the control in La Honda at mile 48. Luckily, the worst climb of the day was done early; the rest of the ride had numerous short ascents, along with the three summits on scenic Stage Road. Post-ride altimeter readings indicated about 5500-5700 feet of gain, so the brevet route was neither easy or cruel-- and this should help prepare riders for the approximate energy output needed at PBP.

At the Start In Pescadero At the Finish

Cyclists of various abilities attended the event and they all did well.Following the 07:30 start, speedy Michael Head arrived back in Santa Cruz a few minutes after 14:00, while Luis Garza finished successfully six hours later. Luis, still recovering from a nasty flu virus, rode sensibly and got the job done without stressing himself unduly-- a good performance for a young fellow on his first brevet. In-between these two, the other randonneurs and randonneuses covered the distance at their respective paces and generally enjoyed a good day on the bike. Many of them found a companion or two going their speed and most riders arrived at the checkpoints in twos and threes. Notable was the Almaden Cycle Touring Club from San Jose; their club spirit and camaraderie was obvious and its eight or so members rode in a cooperative bunch most of the time.

The mood at the turnaround in Moss Beach was upbeat as various groups of riders ate and drank before setting off on the ride south to Pescadero, and then Santa Cruz with a helpful wind pushing them home. Everyone was bouyant all day, and especially at the finish-- and for those contemplating a trip to Paris in August, their first PBP qualifier is in the books and they're 2/15ths of the way there. Happily, there was very little work for the sag drivers to do.

All in all, it was a memorable day of randonneuring. Derrick Tuttle wrote afterward, "I really appreciated the chance to participate in this year's Moss Beach Brevet. Besides the satisfaction of finishing my first 200 km brevet, it was a chance to meet some great people and to ride roads that I might not see otherwise. The last twenty miles on Hwy 1 with that strong onshore breeze at my back and the sun putting a lovely glow on everything was simply amazing."

Photos Provided by Patrice Carney